Crime

Coast superintendent has a message for culprits after 2 threats reported on same day

A Coast superintendent thinks social media is likely to blame for two threats reported to separate schools in his district on Monday, and he’ll “chase every lead” and take action against the culprits.

Gautier Middle School posted on its Facebook page that students were told to “shelter in place” Monday morning while a potential threat was identified. School district officials also investigated the validity of a potential threat made at Pascagoula High School on Monday.

According to the Gautier Middle post, the lockdown was in response to a social media threat reported by a parent.

Gautier police, as well as Pascagoula-Gautier School District police, searched the campus for about 45 minutes Monday morning.

“We visited every classroom and are working to identify all parties who are the source of the threat,” the post said.

The release, which was posted around 11 a.m., said the lockdown had been lifted and the class schedule was back to normal.

“The Pascagoula-Gautier School District will take appropriate action against the individuals who posted the threat,” the post said. “We ask that all parents monitor social media and please report any threats made toward our students and schools.”

Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich told the Sun Herald school officials and law enforcement interviewed some of the people who may have had information about the origin of the social media post.

He said their investigation determined the original post was actually the same one that caused Petal High School to investigate a threat of its own.

“It kind of made its way through the state and back down to us,” he said.

Rodolfich believed the threats, which he said were not directed against the school or district but were “conversationally,” were made on Snapchat.

“I absolutely believe this whole situation is a result of what happened in Florida and the attention that was given to it — and rightfully so,” he said.

Ben Bennight of D’Iberville contacted the FBI about a comment on one of his YouTube videos in September. That comment was made by someone with the same name as the man accused in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida. Bennight, a st

Schools on high alert

The lockdown comes after last week’s shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 16 students and also left a coach dead.

Other schools in South Mississippi have dealt with guns being brought to their campuses, and threats being made on social media. Two Long Beach teens were arrested Friday for threats against the high school. Gautier High School also investigated another threat made last week, which was reported by a proactive parent, oadolfich said.

Rodolfich commended parents in his district for being proactive.

“Parents need to be vigilant in monitoring social media to make sure their children are using it responsibly,” he said.

Pascagoula High

Around 2:30 p.m. the Pascagoula-Gautier district reported another possible threat, this time at Pascagoula High, on the district’s Facebook page.

Rodolfich said several students reported they “overheard something” and the school immediately began to investigate. Although he said the threat was not late deemed to be credible, he said the district has promised to take all threats seriously.

“We just think it’s part of the social media rumor mill running wild,” he said, adding “We will chase every lead down until the end.”

The district posted a message on its Facebook page that was originally sent to parents to notify them of the potential threat.

“We have not found any evidence to support these rumors being valid; however, we have taken steps to increase school district security, as well as, local law enforcement's presence on our campus,” Pascagoula High Principal Anthony Herbert said in the release. “Please talk to your children and ask that they immediately report any concerns to the principal's office. We take all such reports seriously. Please remind them about the importance of using social media in a mature and responsible manner.

“Any threat posted on social media will be investigated and pursued to the fullest extent of the law.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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